3 painters rescued after dangling from bridge

/ Source: The Associated Press

Rescuers searched the Mississippi River on Friday for a bridge painter who fell into the frigid water.

The missing man was among four workers who apparently fell when a temporary maintenance deck broke under the Jefferson Barracks Bridge, said Steve Mossotti, the Mehlville Fire Protection District’s assistant chief. Safety harnesses saved three, and they were pulled to safety after dangling for several minutes about 40 feet below the bridge deck.

The fourth worker fell into the river in an attempt to help his co-workers, Mossotti said. It was unclear whether he was wearing a harness when the deck collapsed late Friday morning.

Officials identified the missing man as Jimmy Belfield, a former law enforcement officer in Washington County, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Rescue boats were searching the murky water. The air temperature was in the 20s.

St. Louis County Police spokesman Mason Keller said the workers were painting the underside of the bridge when the area on which they were standing gave way.

The men were employees of Thomas Industrial Coatings Inc. of Pevely. Telephone calls to the company were not immediately returned. Thomas Industrial Coatings has had at least two similar accidents since 1994.

The bridge carries Interstate 255 traffic between St. Louis County and Illinois.